Sun
Jun 13 2010 10:48am

OK, where do I start with that? I and J.

This week our alphabetical survey of where to start reading different writers gets to I—or it would, if I wasn’t the shortest section of my bookshelves apart from the entirely absent Q. So as well as I, we will take in the rather more prolific J.

Here’s the index to all these posts.

If there are any authors I’ve missed, please add them. Also, if you disagree with me or with each other about where to start, don’t hesitate to jump in with your own views. I’m thinking that these posts will be useful to people in the long term, and seeing reasonable and informed people’s reasons for disagreeing might be even more useful than my idiosyncratic recommendations.

Christopher Isherwood didn’t write any SF or fantasy. He was a gay British novelist who moved to the USA just before WWII. His best known book is Goodbye to Berlin, a set of stories edging on autobiography, set in 1930s Berlin, on which the musical Cabaret was based. Isherwood wrote a whole pile of novels and far more autobiography than most people manage. He was always most interesting when talking about himself. I’d start his autobiographical works with Christopher and His Kind.

Kazuo Ishiguro is another British literary writer—he emigrated to the UK from Japan as a child, and grew up and was educated in Britain. He writes about the English with the kind of eye you develop when you are both deeply embedded in a culture and also always in some ways at an angle to it. I’d start where I started, with his dystopian SF novel Never Let Me Go or with the equally brilliant The Remains of the Day.

I told you I was going to be brief...

J begins with John James, and I’d start him with Votan but even though Not For All the Gold in Ireland is a sequel, it stands alone perfectly well.

P.D. James has written half a ton of cosy mysteries, most of them featuring the policeman Adam Dalgleish. They’re a little repetitive—if you read all her books in a couple of weeks, you may find yourself wishing to inform Mr. Dalgleish of a list of places where he could buy farm bacon just to make him stop complaining in book after book how modern bacon is full of water. Most of James’ books are clever and forgettable mysteries, and you can start them anywhere, it doesn’t matter, though you should read An Unsuitable Job for a Woman before The Skull Beneath the Skin. James also wrote the sci-fi novel The Children of Men, about which the less said the better. But my favourite of her books, and the only one I think is genuinely good rather than sufficiently entertaining fluff, is Innocent Blood—a tense and excellent psychological novel about murder and adoption that ranks with Barbara Vine rather than the rest of James’ work.

Tove Jansson—start with Finn Family Moomintroll. And be four years old at the time. Or if you can’t manage that, have a four or five year old friend handy and read them aloud, sharing the pictures.

The only Ben Jeapes I’ve read is His Majesty’s Starship, which is Hornblower in Space.

Kij Johnson—Fudoki.

For Mervyn Jones I’d suggest starting with Today the Struggle or Two Women and Their Man if you can find them, but I don’t think you’d be likely to be disappointed with any random novel.

Robert Jordan isn’t my thing, but if it’s yours, you want to start with The Eye of the World.

And J ends with the inimitable Norman Juster, and The Phantom Tollbooth, which is one of those books that sounds silly if you describe it to someone who hasn’t read it.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

53 comments
hapax
1. hapax
No Diana Wynne Jones? The absolute genius of the twisty plot? She's probably best known for HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, and it is excellent, if very different from the Miyazaki film. My favorite is DEEP SECRET, or (if I'm in the mood to have my brain broken) HEXWOOD. Her TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASYLAND however, is *essential* reading for anyone who reads traditional epic quest fantasy.

In the I's, I'd like to commend Eva Ibbotson. Her juvenile fantasy is justly celebrated (especially, THE SECRET OF PLATFORM 13, which many point to as a spiritual source for Harry Potter) -- sweet, funny, and wildly imaginative. She also writes very elegant, mannerly, and witty historical romances for adults, the best of which (MADENSKY SQUARE, the short stories in A GLOVE SHOP IN VIENNA) are masterpieces of mood and historical world-building.
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
I and, surprisingly, J are both rather short.

Dean Ing: I don't know if I can really recommend him, but he should be mentioned. He wrote some fairly standard early 80s post-apocalyptic books and collaborated with Mack Reynolds a few times.

Brian Jacques: I suppose you could say the Redwall books are sort of Wind in the Willows meets post-Tolkien fantasy. If you must read it, pick any one. Congratulations, you've read them all. They're more repetitive than Xanth!

M.R. James: A very important English writer of ghost stories and horror. He had a tremendous influence on Lovecraft, though he is also a much better writer. Pick just about any short story collection, but look for one with "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" or "Casting the Runes". Really, an absolutely must read author.

K.W. Jeter: He's written a lot of tie-ins to pay the bills, but he's also written some very interesting standalone work. He's a buddy of Tim Powers and J.P. Blaylock and there is a certain similarity in some of his work. He is also one of the fathers of steampunk.

Diana Wynne Jones: She should be on anyone's reading list. She's been very prolific over the last 40 years. I like the Howl books. For a little more humor, try the Derkholm duology. The Dalemark Quartet wasn't really my thing, but your mileage may vary.
hapax
3. James Davis Nicoll
Hey, don't dis Ing! He had Canada be a major player in WWIV and take over about a third of the US (for its own good) even though a quick glance at a map and consideration of the text will indicate that Canada may have lost 70% or more of its population during the exchange of nuclear missiles (we're highly urbanized and we've put the bulk of our population in the fallout footprint from the US ICBM sites or rather the US put their ground strike targets upwind of us).

There's Alexander Jablokov, recently returned to SF about a hiatus of about a decade, and for him his first novel, Carve the Sky, isn't a bad place to start.
Tex Anne
4. TexAnne
Diana Wynne Jones! Especially her riffs on British folklore--Fire and Hemlock, Hexwood, bits of Archer's Goon. The first DWJ I ever read was Charmed Life, when I was about 9 or so, leading to love at first sight and a lifelong search for everything she's ever written. I've been less impressed with her more recent work, but I don't think you can go wrong with any of her earlier books.
hapax
5. Andrew Barton
What they said. Diana Wynne Jones. Agreed that some of her recent stuff isn't quite up to her earlier standard but that still leaves it head and shoulders above many writers.
Liza .
6. aedifica
I fifth Diana Wynne Jones! She's been one of my favorites for ages (and I just finally got around to writing to tell her so, after I heard the news about her health). Most of her books are aimed at kids; of the two books I can think of that she wrote for adults, Deep Secret is by far the better (though A Sudden Wild Magic is fun too, it just doesn't stand up to Deep Secret).

Of her books aimed at children (but equally enjoyable by adults), I'd start with any of the following: Dogsbody, Howl's Moving Castle, A Tale of Time City, or Hexwood. If you're into RPGs and/or Greek mythology, you may find a special interest in The Homeward Bounders. If you're fond of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, Fire and Hemlock. And lots of her other books would be great to start with too; like TexAnne said, some of her recent books aren't quite up to her earlier standard, but I just read her latest, Enchanted Glass, and really enjoyed it.
hapax
7. ofostlic
I'm guessing that DWJ is filed under W rather than J. That seems more plausible than Jo having forgotten her.
Chad Orzel
8. orzelc
Alex Irvine. First novel is A Scattering of Jades, a rare fantasy novel making use of Central American mythology. The Narrows, about magical doings in WWII Detroit is a more polished book.
hapax
9. Kadere
Brian Jacques start with Redwall. Always start with Redwall.
hapax
10. beket
I am so happy to learn that I am not the only person in the world to feel that way about Children of Men.

Read Remains of the Day a decade and a half ago. I remember I liked it, but my mind goes blank after that.
hapax
11. beket
I have a fantasy novel called A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. Never read it. No idea what it's about. Has anyone read it? Is it worth it?

I am currently reading Gaskell's Cranford based on the recommendation it got here. So far, I'm enjoying it.
hapax
12. Kadere
Shirley Jackson start with The Lottery. But if you want to start with a novel go with The Haunting of Hill House.
Sandi Kallas
13. Sandikal
I think everyone should read Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People." Okay, it's a play, not a novel, but it's excellent and thought-provoking.
Mary Aileen Buss
14. maryaileen
@2 and 3: Dean Ing's technothrillers are also good, if you like the genre.

@11 beket: I have read one Dahlov Ipcar book, possibly A Dark Horn Blowing, but I remember nothing about it other than thinking it was okay but not great.

@1 hapax: I second the recommendation for Eva Ibbotson. I came to her via her romances and actually prefer those. I find her children's fantasies a bit uneven, but The Secret of Platform 13 is definitely worth reading.
Erick Chase
15. TheMarchChase
I quite liked Ian Irvine's (an Australian author) _The View from the Mirror_ series. I haven't found anything else of his, but keep meaning to look.
hapax
16. Elaine Thom
Dahlov Ipcar's Dark Horn Blowing is a changeling sort of story. The human woman is taken by the fairies to nursemaid the king's son. She teaches him to love which affects events rather seriously.

She had another that was a Tam Lin retelling. I can't remember the title, and ISFDB isn't providing it.

Warlock of Night is a fantasy that plays out a famous chess game in real life.

Aha! Amazon came through with the Tam Lin title Queen of Spells . I found it very befuddling the first time I read it. Partly because the setting was updated to circuses and traveling people of that sort, not the medieval setting I was expecting.


Huh, she's mostly an artist, apparently.


Ibbotson is ok. Unlike just about everyone, I think the Secret of Platform 13 is not very good. Some of her other kids fantasies are better. The local 13 year old suggests starting with Haunting of Granite Falls or Which Witch, both of which I also prefer. And some of her historicals are very good.
hapax
17. Susan Loyal
I'd advocate starting Diana Wynne Jones with Charmed Life.

Gwyneth Jones. Either Bold As Love or White Queen would work as a starting place.

Graham Joyce. I started with The Limits of Enchantment, but I'm especially fond of TWOC, one of his YA novels.
Alex Brown
18. AlexBrown
As others have said before Diana Wynne Jones is vital to any reading list, SFF or otherwise. For kids, I'd start with something like the Chrestomanci series or even her newest one, Enchanted Glass. For YA and adults, the Howl and Sophie series is excellent, and for SFF fans, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is top notch stuff.
hapax
19. beket
James Joyce (only J I could find). Taking a lead from Jean-Luc Picard, I've tried to read Ulysses twice and have never made it past chapter 3. But as a 20-year-old, I loved Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The first time I read "The Dead", I thought it was terrible, until someone told me that it was about how the dead are always with us and always have an impact on our lives, even if we don't realize it. I've loved it ever since. But sadly, I find the rest of The Dubliners difficult. If you want to venture into Joyce, start with "The Dead."
hapax
20. Janice in GA
I prefer Kij Johnson's The Fox Woman, because there are plenty of novels about cats or cat-like beings, and not so many with foxes.

I blame this novel for my enduring love of Kij Johnson.
Joe Romano
21. Drunes
beket @19; Thanks for bringing up James Joyce. Bloomsday is coming up, June 16... the perfect time to read a few pages of "Ulysses."
Irene Gallo
22. Irene
At Tor we seem to be divided between Requiem Graham Joyce-ers and Tooth Fairy Graham Joyce-ers. I’m definitely a Tooth Fairy girl. Still one of my favorite Tor books.
Ron Griggs
23. RonGriggs
I have to put in a plug for John Jakes, who is mostly known for his mainstream historical novels I haven't read, including the Kent family chronicles and the North and South series.

But I was Just the Right Age for Jakes' Brak the Barbarian stories, which added a jigger of humor to the traditional sword and sorcery mix. The stories were collected in five volumes, the first of which is Brak the Barbarian.
hapax
24. broundy
Correction: "The Phantom Tollbooth" was written by NORTON Juster.
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
Except for Robert Jordan, whom you are essentially skipping (on this website, brave lass - watch out for subwoofer), I haven't read a single in genre author. I may have seen ten minutes of a Redwall cartoon with my son once).

Out of genre, don't forget John Irving. Big repertoire to choose from starting with Garp and moving all over the place.

Ditto re Henry James. I'm a fan of Portrait of a Lady - beautifully written book.

I'll second (or fifth) Ishiguru's Remains of the Day. Great book and, surprisingly, a great movie.

Rob
hapax
26. Rich Horton
James Joyce is of course great, and "The Dead" is magnificent. PORTRAIT has some great moments -- some transcendent moments -- but it is often boring, as well.

The DWJ references are all of course spot on -- DEEP SECRET would be my choice for place to start.

I agree with the Jablokov recommendation, too ... A writer I've liked from first seeing his work. DEEPDRIVE is another good one.

In mysteries, one recommendation I'd make is Bill James. His series is about Colin Harpur and Desmond Iles. Harpur is a generally decent but somewhat morally compromised detective in the South of England, and Iles is his boss, a decidedly nasty piece of work, but a brilliant and rather cultured man to boot. The novels are mostly concern solving various crimes (of course), and the compromises they make dealing with informers and gang members and so on. They are clever, and viciously funny, and sometimes quite moving. First rate, over all. I started with the second novel, THE LOLITA MAN, which worked fine. The first novel is YOU'D BETTER BELIEVE IT.
Tex Anne
27. TexAnne
RobMRobM, 25: I bounced hard off of Portrait of a Lady. Will you tell me what you see in it?
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
@27 - Nuanced portrait of the consequences of a dumb impulsive decision. Isobel was seduced by the elegant brain of the older European man she met during her tour of the Western world (can't recall his name)and married him, and has to pay the consequences as his sterile, heartless intellectualism matches poorly with her robust take charge approach to life. Feel her horror with her decision grow with every word, every paragraph of the story. Not my usual style but tons of power. R
Tex Anne
29. TexAnne
@28: Ah. Thank you--that is not my sort of book, but I now understand why it's still read.
john mullen
30. johntheirishmongol
Eric Innes wrote a sort of scifi/adventure series that was fun, if not too sophisticated. I think is was America First or something near that.

John Jakes wrote a lot of scifi before he becames famous for The Rebel. It was very pulpy scifi.

JV Jones - A Cavern of Dark Ice is pretty good.
Katie Schmidt
31. safarikate
W.W. Jacobs wrote 'The Monkey's Paw,' which is classic horror. I think that's the only story of his that I've read so far, though.

Washington Irving, 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.'

I can't think of any more 'I' or 'J' authors at the moment.
zaphod beetlebrox
32. platypus rising
James Joyce - I liked all the stories in Dubliners

Ben Jonson - Volpone or The Alchemist

Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle or the short story collection The Lottery and Other Stories. I'm always amazed at how many otherwise good and decent people have not read Shirley Jackson.

Henry James - There should be a Penguin ediction with The Turn of the Screw and other "ghost" stories. The Reverberator is funnier and less serious than most of the other novels, and therefore perhaps a good introduction.

M.R. James - Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Edited to second (third?) the recommendation of Bold As Love for Gwyneth Jones
Andy Leighton
33. andyl
I definitely agree with #17 with regards to Gwyneth Jones and Graham Joyce.

Other Is and Js.

Simon Ings. Although he is published as a mainstream author now his first four books were unashamedly genre. Three were cyberpunk (start with Hot-head), one fairly weird SF - City Of The Iron Fish which may be of interest to those who like the New Weird.

KW Jeter - of course. I guess best known for Infernal Devices and Dr Adder.

D.F. Jones - The Colossus trilogy and a few other mid-list SF novels.
Jo Walton
34. bluejo
No, actually, not filed under W. I don't much like what I've read of Diana Wynne Jones's writing. I found Deep Secret, which I see a number of you mentioning above as a good start point, very much not to my taste. Indeed, I found it so silly and childish -- and this was an *adult* book -- that I haven't been able to bring myself to read anything else.

I don't know if this has to do with my problems with humour or what, as a great many people whose taste I respect (including my son) esteem Jones highly.

I think it must be one of those "terrible shortage of oatmeal" things.
James Goetsch
35. Jedikalos
N.K. Jemisin "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms"--just finished reading it, and I was enchanted with her strange world of gods and humans.

I don't find the Dalgleish stories so forgettable, but rather enjoy them and think about them now and then. It's funny how tastes and judgments about this stuff go. I have so loved some of the same books you have loved, and gone off and read many wonderful things you recommended . . . and then the funny wonderful differences of taste that just jump out. I remember your review of Lord of Light hit me like that too: a book I simply loved and you were not so keen on. I find these differences of opinion and taste in these matters so fascinating, as if there are some real clues about being human in it. Though probably not. But still fun to think about.
Sam Kelly
36. Eithin
Regarding JV Jones, I'd suggest starting with The Baker's Boy, which is the first book of her first trilogy, or with the standalone book The Barbed Coil, which has interesting calligraphic magic and lots of rather nice descriptions of food.

The series starting with Cavern of Black Ice isn't finished yet.
hapax
37. a-j
M R James - 'The Mezzotint', 'A School Story' or 'Martin's Close' are good introductions to his unique way to telling ghost stories. Michael Hordern did brilliant unabridged readings of many James stories.
Tove Jansson - her adult novels are at last being translated into English. I would start with 'The Summer Book' or 'Fair Play'.
Terry Jones - 'The Saga of Eric the Viking', very different from the film. For non-fiction (if allowable) 'Chaucer's Knight' for a complete re-evaluation of Chaucer's moral universe and satirical intent.
Jerome K Jerome - 'Three Men in a Boat'
hapax
38. beket
Henry James - completely forgot about him, probably because I'm not a fan. In regard to Portrait of a Lady, in the midst of discussing it in a grad class, my prof (who specialized in ghost stories and gothic tales) suddenly realized Portrait was at its core one long gothic tale in the classic style. Still, I'd start with Turn of the Screw .
hapax
39. Kvon
Of Diana Wynne Jones' recent books, I'd put The Game at the top of the list (how often do you see the Pleiades in modern fantasy?) but my favorite is still The Ogre Downstairs. Her strength is in her YA, not her adult books, but I'm coming at all of them as an adult so I don't know how they seem to the average middle reader. Don't forget to send her your fanmail now while her health is declining.

I read the Ipcar book also, and I can't remember it.

I've got Elaine Isaak on my shelf; her first book is The Singer's Crown.

I once talked to a person at a con who was writing a first book whose last name began with an I; I couldn't remember his name, but figured it would be easy to spot when it came out due to the shortness of that shelf.
Nick Eden
40. NickPheas
I rather agree with you Jo about Deep Secret, Diana's 'adult' works have always struck me as a rather forced attempt to jump on a Pratchett bandwagon. Try Charmed Life which is witty and entertaining, or Fire and Hemlock which is a more serious YA coming of age story.
hapax
41. Edward Milewski
Someone not mentioned yet is Hammon Innes. He wrote adventure novels and other such. He was rather popular some time back and wrote some 35 novels.Don't know where you should start.
hapax
42. Edward Milewski
Sorry! Should be Hammond with a d.
hapax
43. Tatterbots
Jo, if you found Deep Secret silly and childish, okay, but I don't think you should give up yet. Try Fire and Hemlock or The Spellcoats, or her early novella The True State of Affairs (look in her short story collections for that one). Or The Time of the Ghost.
Heloise Larou
44. Heloise
Denis Johnson, Fiskadoro - the best post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Hemingway never wrote.

And James Joyce has of course to be Ulysses - probably my favourite novel of all time, and neither as difficult nor as boring to read as it's often made out to be, but instead an intellectually exciting and emotionally moving journey through a single day that takes risks that no novel before or after ever did and gets brilliantly away with it.
hapax
45. ofostlic
Jo,

For DWJ for someone who doesn't like "Deep Secret" (I wasn't mad about it either) I'd suggest the earliest books like "Dogsbody" and "The Ogre Downstairs" and "Power of Three". They're more serious than many of the later books.

In your case I think "Dogsbody" might actually be the best one to try -- I wouldn't recommend it as starting place for a young adult reader today, since is very definitely tied to its period and place, but you might find that a positive feature. You would have been fairly close to its target age when it was published.

"Fire and Hemlock" is the only DWJ I really don't get, but lots of people who don't like the others like it -- it's a bad choice as an introduction to her work, but a good second try if you didn't like what you read first.
Linden Wolfe
46. Lilith
Washington Irving - lots of good short stories. As mentioned above, find a collection containing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Christopher Isherwood - The omnibus The Berlin of Sally Bowles containing Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935), Sally Bowles (1937) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939).

Hammond Innes - I read a lot of his books when I was in my teens because my mother had them. I recall quite enjoying them as lightweight thrillers. The only one I recall by name is The Wreck of the Mary Deare.

Christian Jacq seems popular with the public - never read any myself. Start with Ramses: The Son of Light.

Clive James - he has written novels, but I haven't read any. I can recommend Unreliable Memoirs as an enjoyable autobiography.

J A Jance - enjoyable light mysteries. Start with either the first J P Beaumont book,Until Proven Guilty (set in Seattle), or the first Joanna Brady book, Desert Heat (set in Arizona). But you can really enjoy any of her books without having read others in the series.

Mike Jeffries - The Road to Underfall (first volume of the Loremasters of Elundium series), which I enjoyed when it came out in the 1980s, but haven't re-read, so can't vouch for how well it stands up.

Paul Jennings - children's books - find a kid to read with and start with The Paw Thing

If you fancy some very dated stiff-upper-lippage, try Captain W E Johns starting with The Camels are Coming (1932) the first Biggles book.
hapax
47. David DeLaney
I'll add comments on a few more (and have elided some in I and several in J that I know I _have_, but I can't remember anything -about-).

Charles Ingrid was one of several pseudonyms of Rhondi A. Vilott Salsitz. (I am slowly finding out just how many of the authors I have are actually OTHER authors I have, or even someone else entirely. Hopefully this era of discovery will slow to a halt soon...) He (she) wrote a series that started with _Radius of Doubt_ which I own (Patterns of Chaos), with FTL pilots who are specially talented and navigate through chaos powers. She also wrote as Emily Drake for The Magickers series, as Jenna Rhodes for The Elven Ways series (ongoing), and apparently quite a number of others under various names.

Ian Irvine is the other Irvine I have. More on duplicated last names below... He wrote a four-book series that starts with _A Shadow on the Glass_ - but I see that it's now a 4+4+3-book series, with three more to come. Bah. I don't actually recall anything about what Wikipedia is saying the series was about, though I know I -read- this series within the last few years. Anyway, start it with _A Shadow on the Glass_.

Elaine Isaak has a series that starts with _The Singer's Crown_; political intrigue, a talented but castrated bard, magic in a fairly standard fantasy setting.

(I have to mention Molly Ivins' books in passing, cuz her columns were Just That Good. The political-editorials landscape misses her greatly. Start with almost any, but okay, _Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?_)

Elided from I - several editors (Ice, Ian & Resnick, Irwin & Love).

John Jakes has already been mentioned - but the book he wrote that I found as a child was _Time Gate_. Short by today's standards, but works as an introduction to his SF, I think. Note that this is NOT _Tunnel through Time_ - that was by del Rey. This is an "oh no, history is being changed, we have to stop it" romp back and forth through past and future, with a few grisly moments and a lot of zeerust.

J.O. Jeppson is perhaps better known as Janet Asimov, and most of what I have by her is under the latter name. But she did write _The Second Experiment_ under this name, and it's probably a less treacly start than any of the Norby books.

William Johnston wrote a series of novelizations of the Get Smart TV show; it's more humor than it is SF, but the Bond-like wacky gadgets give it a place here, I think. (He also wrote a series of Welcome Back, Kotter novelizations.) They're more than 40 years old now ... sigh. You can start with any of them, but _Get Smart!_ was the first one.

(And now three _more_ Jones authors that weren't mentioned yet:)

Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett have recently begun a series involving mechanical, magically animated dragons, the boys that fly them, and the country for whom they're flying to war; it starts with _Havemercy_.

Neil R. Jones was an oldtime SF author, who wrote the Professor Jameson series, and whom Wikipedia credits with a couple of other interesting things; start it (if you can find this) with _The Planet of the Double Sun_, to begin on his 40-million-year postmortem journey and revival as a cyborg by the Zoromes.

Raymond F. Jones was also an oldtime SF author. The novel I have of his, _The Alien_, seems to have been his first novel-length work. Some of its contents would be incredibly cliched today... but it told a compelling story of Space Archaeologists who discover an alien body and lab, allowing the alien to be revived after half a million years. And what had to be done after that to grant some Earthpeople the kind of psychic powers needed to resist the Alien's...

Robert Jordan was actually a pseudonym of James Oliver Rigney, but he might as well be here. My main comment for him is that while the series starts with _The Eye of the World_ ... it's actually possible to read the second (or even third) book in the series as your first book of his . Some people get put off by the homage the first hundred or two pages of TEotW makes to Lord of the Rings; the middle of that book is also somewhat confusing, with unannounced flashbacks, the party split into several pieces going different directions, and several of the party members not really knowing what's going on yet. So if you were one of them, pop into your local library and see if TGH or TSR works better for you as a starting point. (The series as a whole rewards multiple rereads a good deal more than many such; there's foreshadowing all OVER the place, minor plotlines that never explicitly get tied off but which can be figured out what happened to if you put clues together, and several different things that take on new meaning in the light of later revelations...) Brandon Sanderson's continuation has many of us champing at the bit waiting for the second-last and last books in the series. (See: Leigh's massive reread-blogpost series on this very site.)

(Researching my final J note tells me I should have it filed under S instead, which I hadn't figured out any time in the last thirty years or so. Oh well.) (Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual, if you must know.)

--Dave
hapax
48. a-j
While I heartily recommend 'Remains of the Day', my entry to Kazuo Ishiguro was 'Artist of the Floating World' which is where I would suggest as perhaps a better starting point.
Paul Andinach
49. anobium
Catherine Jinks: I started with Pagan's Crusade, which is good (non-SF) historical fiction aimed younger readers, although I felt that the series starts into diminishing returns after the second sequel.

I haven't read any of her more recent SF stuff, although I've heard good things about the Evil Genius series.
Rob Munnelly
50. RobMRobM
@46 - Clive James did some travel pieces some years back, I believe for public television, that were hilarious. In the one on Rome I recall he had to get a tuxedo to go to a formal party and he used a tailor who also made clothing for the Pope. He asked the tailor the question "What is the Pope's inseam?" and then turned to the camera with a wink and said "Knowledge is power." Very worth watching if you can find them.

Rob
hapax
51. thanate
We have next to no I/J books that are not either Diana Wynne Jones (mine) or Robert Jordan (my husband's), although I'd put in a good word for Terry Jones' Saga of Erik the Viking, which is sweet and silly, and an entirely different story with the same soul as the movie. (If I recall correctly, he also wrote Nicobobinus which has a similar feel in a different setting.)

For DWJones, I definitely agree with Fire and Hemlock, Hexwood, or Howl's Moving Castle as good places to start. I had no idea that people thought Deep Secret was an adult book though-- I'm pretty sure I've only seen it in YA sections in the library. I also didn't care much for The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, although I'm sure it makes a good coffee table book for D&D players, but the novel to which it was a semi-companion piece (The Dark Lord of Derkholm) I enjoyed, and I found Year of the Griffin (the sequel, which includes a very different take on a school of magic) to be extremely amusing.

I also just finished N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and found it worthy.
hapax
52. HelenS
For the easily frightened (like me), I would suggest not only NOT starting Shirley Jackson with _The Haunting of Hill House_, but never reading it at all. _We Have Always Lived in the Castle_ is not (to my mind) very frightening, but I can imagine that someone else might find it so. I like it very much when I am in the right mood. I am also very, very fond of Jackson's books about her family, despite their silly titles, _Life Among the Savages_ and _Raising Demons_.
hapax
53. DragonRose
Maureen Johnson is a hilarious and smart YA novelist who's Devilish is awesome take on selling your soul to the devil (with cupcakes). The demons reminded me of C. S. Lewis's from The Screwtape Letters.

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